If you were to pay attention to the news — or trending topics on social media — you could be forgiven for thinking that manhood and masculinity is in retreat. After all, various conservative influencers, pundits and politicians have been banging the gong to warn people about the impending crisis of manhood.
On Thursday, November 25th, Nick Fletcher — a Minister of Parliament for the UK’s Tory party — declared that the casting of actress Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor was part of a social trend that was causing young men to take up a life of crime.
Despite the continuing failure of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of Russia invading Ukraine and other, more pressing social ills, Fletcher declared that ” ‘female replacements’ in shows like Doctor Who were robbing boys of good role models,” and that “The only characters [boys] had to look up to were gangsters the Krays and Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders”
Leaving aside the famous Whovians running the criminal underworld in the UK and their anti-Reylo recruitment strategies, this is the sort of news story that sounds absurd. Government officials spending time debating casting Queen Latifah in The Equalizer or the 2016 Ghostbusters movies and how this makes “boys feel bad about being boys” seems like an Onion headline from the early days of GamerGate. And yet, MP Fletcher is hardly alone in stoking the flames of the “men are in trouble” narrative.
On November 1st, GOP Senator Josh Hawley complained during his keynote speech at the National Conservatism Conference that “feminism was driving men to video games and pornography”.
No, I’m not kidding. He actually said this.
Josh Hawley says more men today are watching porn and playing video games because their masculinity has been criticized. pic.twitter.com/R0eXdRSYNT
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) November 1, 2021
Newsflash Josh: I can promise you that dudes found porn and video games all on their own; feminism had nothing to do with it.
The speech itself was full of the usual cliches — feminism bad, “toxic masculinity” makes boys feel bad about themselves, liberalism and wokeness has run amuck, Teen Vogue delenda est and so on. There was nothing terribly original or even all that interesting in Hawley’s speech; just more complaining from the party of Personal Responsibility about how much their feefees get hurt if someone doesn’t pat them on the head and call them a big brave manly man. However, both Hawley and Fletcher’s speeches are part and parcel of right wing and conservative mouthpieces loudly declaring that we are in the midst of a “masculinity crisis” — a term vague enough to cover any number of supposed ills, yet dire enough to demand immediate attention and correction from society at large.
This “crisis” has lead to hand-wringing over insufficiently macho boys, fears that men may feel things other than anger, even that the army may be insufficiently macho — and again, I’m not kidding.
But the real issue we face is simple: is this “crisis” real?
Well, yes and no. It’s unquestionable that men are in a crisis. Men have lower life expectancies than women, have greater instances of mental illness and commit suicide at higher rates than women. Men, particularly BIPOC men, are incarcerated at greater and greater rates. However, folks like Hawley, Fletcher and their compatriots sounding the alarm care relatively little about the actual issues surrounding men and are more concerned with the scourge of *checks notes* the possibility that the next actor to play James Bond will be a woman.
In fact, this “crisis” has all the hallmarks of a moral panic — overblown stories buttressed by irrelevant anecdotes and low-stakes “risks” that insist we are on a downward slope towards something calamitous that also can’t be defined or described.
In other words: there’s a whole lot of smoke machines, but no actual fire.
Now, to be clear: while I’ll be focusing on Hawley and Fletcher’s comments, they’re hardly the only people who have been marketing this crisis to the public. They’re merely the most recent… even if they’re repeating the same tired and easily debunked talking points. As such, they provide a perfect example of just how manufactured and fake their “emergency” is.
So with that in mind: let’s look at this “crisis”… and why people are so invested in telling us that we need to beware.
The Identifying Marks of A Moral Panic
Journalist Michael Hobbes — co-host of the podcast Maintenance Phase and host emeritus of You’re Wrong About — is an expert on moral panics. Having done multiple deep dives on previous moral panics like “stranger danger”, cancel culture, human trafficking, and the McDonalds Hot Coffee lawsuit, Hobbes is uniquely qualified to identify the hallmarks of a moral panic.
In a recent post to his Substack, Hobbes illustrated the common signs of a moral panic in the offing:
- Low Stakes
- Irrelevant or non-existent examples
- Misleading statistics
- False equivalencies
While Hobbes uses these signs as an example of moral panics being promoted in journalism, we see these same signifiers all over the supposed masculinity crisis.
Both Fletcher and Hawley’s speeches are a classic examples of low stakes. In both cases, we see far more emphasis put on “well boys may feel bad” or “men aren’t getting married or having children” and having these inflated to the level of endangering the very existence of Western (read: white) Civilization because DON’T ASK QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO PANIC. The examples of problems that Hawley feels compelled to point out include “trans people playing sports”, “using more inclusive language around reproductive health,” “people are waiting to get married” and “universities have courses about performative masculinity.”
Similarly, Hawley and Fletcher’s speeches are chock full of irrelevant examples. Fletcher pointed to pop culture as a creeping indicator of the perfidity of wokeism, saying “In recent years we have seen Doctor Who, Ghostbusters, Luke Skywalker, the Equalizer, all replaced by women, and men are left with the Krays and Tommy Shelby. Is there any wonder we are seeing so many young men committing crime?” What this has to do with… literally anything, really… is left as an experiment for the listener. After all, episodes of Doctor Who weren’t pulled from stores and streaming services with each new incarnation of the Doctor. Nor did Paul Feig prevent the sale of the first two Ghostbusters movies when Answer the Call was released. Despite a rise in female leads in pop culture, it seems there are still plenty of male lead characters to be found; boys and impressionable men are still well-represented in virtually all genres of entertainment.
Hawley, on the other hand points to damning examples like the op-ed that Northeastern University professor Suzanne Walters wrote in 2018 for The Washington Post. In this op-ed, Walters discusses the frustration felt by many over a lifetime’s worth of sexual violence being inflicted on women with seeming impunity from men. This was hardly an official position taken by the university or the paper, which has also published op-eds promoting fake universities from right-wing grifters. Nor, for that matter, was the op-ed itself particularly notable; I imagine that few folks even knew it ran in the first place. Similarly, while the language is charged, it’s hardly out of line with language used by Hawley’s political idols and is far less violent or disturbing than, say, calling for the execution of members of Congress or tweeting badly edited videos of someone murdering their political rivals. For that matter, it’s less disturbing than Hawley himself showing support for a crowd yelling “hang Mike Pence”…
Both speeches — like many similar arguments tossed about on social media — refer to nebulous and unsourced statistics such as fewer men going to college or how male suicide rates are three times higher than those of women. While both of these are true, to an extent, they’re also profoundly misleading to the relevancy and cause. Men have higher rates of suicide than women do, for example, in part because men are lonelier, taught to ignore or repress their emotions and don’t seek help for depression or mental illness. Similarly, men are going to college at higher rates than ever… it’s just that more women are applying than ever before. And while it’s true that more women than men are completing college and getting degrees, a full third of men who don’t finish college… just decided to quit.
The false equivalences are, likewise, all over the place. What does having a female lead in three Star Wars movies have to do with male suicide rates? While Hawley complains about a single op-ed about being angry at the enablers of sexual violence or courses on performative masculinity, Hawley himself is writing and sponsoring bills demanding censorship in schools for topics he finds upsetting.
These are textbook examples of Hobbes’ signs of a moral panic — just dressed up in political drag.
But to add to the absurdity of it all, none of this is even new.
Fifth Verse, Same as the First
How familiar is this refrain: Football is at risk because it’s just “too safe” these days. According to one writer: “Everyone regrets injuries, but the threat of injury is necessary to football’s appeal. For more than a century, the element of risk has been necessary to prove that athletes have the right stuff. It is not just violence we like in football. If it were merely violence we wanted, we would prefer boxing, or invent new games. […] It’s that meeting of violence and artistry, the tension between the two, that so appeals. It’s that instant when ball, receiver, and defender converge, when artistry is threatened by violence and the outcome is in doubt, that epitomizes the game’s attraction. To put it one way, the receiver who hangs onto the ball despite the bone-crunching hit proves he’s got the right stuff.”
This sounds like something you would expect to read at Barstool or other “rah rah, grr we’re manly” sports blogs. Except in this case, this excerpt is from a 1983 article in the New York Times: Why Football Injuries Remain Part of the Game. However, even that was an echo of an even earlier concern, when folks would stroke their beards and shake their heads sadly at how soft men were becoming.
Another concerned letter on the subject of the dangers of football is equally focused on the idea that the danger — and the value that danger brings to men — felt similarly: “The sports especially dear to a vigorous and manly nation are always those in which there is a certain slight element of risk. It is mere unmanly folly to do away with the sport because the risk exists.”
This was from Harper’s Weekly in 1893 — when Theodore Roosevelt felt compelled to preserve football from those who would emasculate it by making it less dangerous.
Roosevelt was a member of the Muscular Christianity movement — a movement within the Christian churches of England and the United States who saw a danger to both men and morality as people moved from rural agrarian life to urban offices and cities. As an influx of immigrants from abroad took blue collar jobs — especially ones requiring manual labor — and women campaigned for emancipation, white Anglo-Saxon men in the US and England were becoming white-collar workers. These changes lead to fears that (white) men were in danger of losing their masculinity and that the Empire would fall soon after. Muscular Christianity developed as a response to these anxieties, promoting “manly virtues” and equating physical athleticism with moral character and the use of sports to prevent “moral turpitude”.
Of course, part and parcel for this fear of the decline of (white) manhood was the need to for men toughen themselves up through violence and pain. In a rant that wouldn’t be out of place amongst the cigar-chewing set who tut-tut about the state of men today, one prominent Muscular Christian from 1868 wrote:
“I boldly declare that danger is a very desirable element in exercise. […] There is a precious discipline in danger… I consider no man educated who is not educated to meet danger, grapple with it, and conquer it. And any system of gymnastics which leaves out danger is an emasculated system.”
If you were to read the letters and writing of the time, especially amongst the Muscular Christian adherents, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were written in the 60s, the 80s, or even today. The fears of the “encroaching softness” of modern life, the influx of the “unfit” — which is to say, immigrants — that threatened to “upend the national character” and the idleness of children who took the easier life for granted were as prominent in 1868 as they were 1955, 1997 or 2021.
Then, as now, Muscular Christianity had very strong opinions about what made a man and what standards he should be measured by. They believed that “a man’s body was given to him by God,” and was to be “trained into subjugation” before being put to use towards the advancement of “righteous causes” and then used “to subjugate and subdue the Earth”.
That’s not hyperbole, incidentally — both the American and English branches of Muscular Christianity believed that men needed to hone and buttress their masculinity so that they could go out and conquer the world in the name of the British and/or American Empire. In fact, Muscular Christianity was often held up as the ideal to inspire men to subjugate the Hindu and Muslim population of India and as motivation for young men to throw themselves into the meat-grinder that was World War I. The fears that men were just “too soft” to form an effective army — or worse, that they’d succumb to the foreign hordes that surely sought to take what we’d already conquered — were virtually indistinguishable from the laments that our military today has emasculated itself in the name of “wokeness.”
If the “manhood crisis” were truly as dire as they say, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were on the verge of societal collapse at any moment. But even a moment’s research demonstrates that this is a complaint that’s almost older than steam. The complaints haven’t changed, nor has the language surrounding the supposed crisis. The only thing that’s changed is the year on the calendar.
But what is particularly significant is how the most voices who complain the loudest only seem to be able to wring their hands with worry…
A Crisis With No Solutions
One of the surest signs of a manufactured panic is the fact that the folks who seem most afraid of the downfall of masculinity have no solutions to offer.
You would think that the people sounding the alarm the loudest would have actual thoughts about some of the issues they bring up. After all, if people like Fletcher were worried about, say, high rates of suicide in men or the sheer number of men in jail, you would think that they would want to address potential causes and solutions. There is a legitimate need for a long series of discussions about why men are reticent to seek help for mental health, or ways of combating the social, emotional and psychological isolation men suffer from. They could talk about why, for example, companies are eager to outsource labor to the global south and eliminate jobs in the United States — which Hawley has tied to feminism and leftists… somehow.
But they won’t. They honestly can’t; it’s glaringly obvious whenever someone tries to pin them down on precisely what they would like to see done about these issues. When Fletcher found himself getting mocked on social media for his Jodie-Whittaker-causes-crime stance, his response wasn’t to point to ways that Parliament could help the social ills affecting men; it was to release a statement about how everyone was being mean to him online and taking his words out of context.
Similarly, when reporters pushed Hawley about his speech during an interview for Axios, he couldn’t provide an actual solution. When he was asked, specifically, how he linked porn use to discussions of toxic masculinity, he dodged the question. When he was asked what his basis for linking “men being told that their masculinity was problematic” to unemployment or lowered rates of college attendance, he tried to pivot to “policy choices”. Throughout the entire interview, he hemmed, he hawed, he made classic appeal-to-popularity “well clearly lots of people think this” fallacies… but he couldn’t actually give an actionable solution beyond “ask politely to stop jerking it to porn and playing video games.”
Because that’s not the point. The point isn’t to solve the problem, the point to make you upset and riled up, not to have an actual discussion about how to navigate the cultural shift around gender and gender roles. They don’t want to talk about how the economy has left scores of people behind — especially when Hawley and crew are in support of those changes. They want to just go around in circles saying “this is bad, you should be upset, this is being taken from you.”
Which… ok, sure. But what’s the next actionable step, then? If this is a “crisis”, one that people have been proclaiming for more than a century, then surely we’re past the “make people understand there’s a problem” stage and into the “so what do we do about it?” stage. And, more importantly, what exactly would they suggest we do that isn’t a hideous violation of people’s civil rights?
This, again, isn’t hyperbole. Plenty of folks who’ve railed about the “masculinity crisis” have proposed solutions that would drastically curtail people’s liberty. People have seriously suggested making divorce harder to obtain — regardless of circumstance — in order to “push couples to reconcile” and to forcibly reward whomever resists divorce with the other party’s assets. Jordan Peterson famously suggested that monogamy should be enforced by the government, in order to ensure that young men have access to sex and girlfriends. And of course, plenty of members of Hawley’s party believe in forcing people to carry even dead fetuses to term, the removing the reproductive rights and access to healthcare for folks who can give birth and denying the right to marriage or raise children to LGBTQ folks.
But to say all that out loud would be problematic. Even the tradwife crowd start to shift in their seats and mumble at their shoes when folks start to talk seriously about rolling back rights instead of just rabble rousing about how things were better when women weren’t allowed to vote.
What would the solution be for the fact that more women are pursuing college degrees than men? Does this involve — and I’m just spitballing here — dealing with an economy that’s made undergraduate degrees useless and a collegiate system that drowns people in debt that they can never get out from under? If waiting to marry until later in life is a problem, what would you propose they do about it? Perhaps by offering greater support for working parents in order to make it financially feasible to have children at a younger age? Greater support for childcare, meal programs for underprivileged children, a living minimum wage so that parents don’t have to work two or three jobs in order to feed their kids and pay rent?
For that matter, what precisely do they propose to do about the scores of men — especially men of color — who are in prison and unable to support their families? Maybe change the drug laws in this country, expunge arrest records for those arrested for drug crimes that are no longer crimes and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline supported by the prison-industrial complex?
Of course not. In fact, the same people who will rant and rave and yell about, say, the number of men who suffer from mental illness or male victims of sexual assault will then turn around and protest any attempts to actually fix things. When the American Psychology Association released new guidelines for treating men and boys, with a focus on the ways that stereotypes about masculinity can prevent men from getting help, moral panic purveyors insisted that this was “pathologizing manhood”. When the United States Military instituted a program to help combat the rampant sexual assault problem at military service academies, the supposed guardians of masculinity insisted that cadets were “being taught how not to be a man.”
Similarly, Hawley and others may lionize the concept of “being a father”, but are loathe to put it into practice. Hawley’s been staunch in his opposition to the very changes that would make it easier for men to be fathers, including increased paternity leave and greater access to childcare in the Build Back Better program.
But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The last thing that the defenders of mediocre manhood want is to make actual, substantive changes. The only solution the masculinity minute men propose is to “encourage people” to do something. Case in point: when Hawley was asked for a solution, his response was to say “We’ve got to say that spending your time not working … spending your time on video games, spending your time watching porn online … is not good for you, your family or this country.”
So… Underwear Gnome logic it is, then.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, honestly. Hawley wouldn’t be caught dead actually trying to solve those issues, in no small part because the causes are part of the Republican platform and conservative ideology. To actually enact policies that would make meaningful changes — ones that would empower people to marry and have children, that would spur on the local economy and end issues like mass-incarceration — would be to vote against the interests of the businesses and donors who contribute to their campaign funds. Actually trying to solve the problem would make it that much harder to fundraise off of the fear that if men are allowed to experience emotions besides anger, the Commies will invade.
Just as importantly, though, the last thing that anyone who promotes this particular moral panic of masculinity wants to do is have a sincere and good-faith discussion about the real crisis facing men. After all, that would require actually examining the meaning behind “toxic masculinity” or “systemic racism” — that people aren’t saying “being a man is bad”, but “the limited ways that society demands you behave in order to be considered a man is harmful to society in general and men in particular.”
But then again, that brings up another very relevant and important part of this particular faux crisis…
Who Gets To Be A Man?
When people complain about the “decline of masculinity today,” it raises an incredibly important question: what is a man?
Despite the easy jokes, this isn’t an idle question; the answer goes straight to the central tenet of their ideology. After all, who gets to be a man, in their eyes, makes all the difference. When Hawley says “Well, a man is a father. A man is a husband. A man is somebody who takes responsibility,” what does that mean, precisely? Does this mean, for example, that someone who gets divorced isn’t a man? What about somebody who gets widowed? If a man is a father, does that mean that Tan France gets full credit for being a man? After all, he and his husband Rob had a son in August via a surrogate. By all accounts, this makes him more of a man than, say, Rush Limbaugh, who never had kids.
What about if a trans man marries and has a child? Regardless of whether he’s the one who gives birth to it or not, he’s still both husband and father… so does he count as a man?
Let’s be real here: of course they do. Just, y’know. Not to the people complaining about the “decline in masculinity”; if anything, Tan France et. al are the exact threat that Hawley and others complain about. In fact, few things demonstrate just how insincere the defenders of masculinity are in their praise of things like fatherhood. When Pete Buttigieg took paternity leave in order to help raise his newborn son with his husband, Tucker Carlson and other right-wing talking heads mocked them for… being engaged fathers who want to be a presence in their child’s life.
So, which is it? Are men supposed to be engaged and responsible parents who support and raise their kids? Or are they supposed to be some Mad Men-era distant figure who is technically there, but who has little day-to-day involvement with the raising of their kids?
Well, obviously. Because otherwise one might have to admit that Buttigieg and France are better men and fathers than Carlson and Hawley.
But folks like Buttitgieg, and other queer men are a demonstrable threat to the very narrow vision of masculinity that the “Make Manhood Great Again” crowd want to promote. People like the Queer Eye host are the folks who challenge the very notion of what it means to “be a real man”, in no small part because of just how performative the restrictive, conservative version of masculinity is. They’re a threat to the reactionary masculine town criers simply by looking good in a frock coat and dress combo.
The masculinity envisioned by the staunch defenders of manhood is less about biology or genitals than it is about displaying the right signifiers of manhood — a cargo-cult mentality where people who demonstrably fail to measure up to the vision of manhood they sell are able to get credit for being “rah rah real men” by adopting the outward, exaggerated tropes of Ron Swanson.
No, I’m not just being snarky. The really do use Ron Swanson as basis for their archetype; they want to portray themselves as a Man’s Man who Likes Brown Liquor (Preferably Scotch), who Works With His Hands (Preferably with Wood), Decorates Exclusively In Leather, Eats Greasy Foods and Smokes Big Cigars because people think that a fictional character (who would, incidentally, hate them) is the epitome of manhood.
But of course, one of the issues that crop up when masculinity is reduced to a series of aesthetic choices and macho posturing is that it means that you can never be secure in your manhood. When masculinity becomes a costume and series of performances — especially when those performances entail doing something that makes you profoundly uncomfortable or involves pretending to like things you hate — it means that you live in constant fear of people seeing through the illusion. You’re having to prop up a Potemkin Village of manliness, trying to mask the fact that you don’t measure up to the very values you insist men need to embody. But rather than accepting that masculinity and manhood comes in many different sizes, shapes, aesthetics and choices, they hope that if enough people see you do the Man Thing, then maybe that masculinity will actually transfer and you’ll stop dying inside because you’re lying to yourself and everyone around you.
But it never does and you never do, because you’re fundamentally trying to be someone you’re not, instead of your genuine self. Which is how you end up with a bunch of deeply insecure, self-loathing people who’ve given themselves peptic ulcers from drinking too much Scotch playing dress up in smoking jackets, faking like they know how to smoke cigars and basing their design choices off of “does this make it look like I’ve had dinner at Boodles?”
And yet these pillars of manliness, the Atlases of Masculinity holding the Sacred Scrotum aloft on their backs, are the most fragile, easily triggered Chicken Littles imaginable. If manhood and masculinity were so self-evident and so etched into the firmament of the sky and the strands of our DNA, you would think they would brush off supposed “threats” like trans people existing as unimportant. Instead, we get Ministers of Parliament complaining about Daisy Ridley like a third tier YouTuber and United States Senators who have declared that masculinity is so fragile that someone made him feel bad and this threatens to bring the entire system down.
To misquote Twitter user Doth The Doth: seems like you are the overly sensitive snowflake, my good bitch…
But as much fun as it is to dunk on the latest absurdities from people promoting this moral panic, there’s a reason to worry…
The Masculinity Moral Panic: Cui Bono?
Here’s the thing: Josh Hawley is clown-shoes personified. He’s desperate to raise his political profile when the majority of voters don’t know who he is or give a six-legged rat’s ass. Fletcher’s rant on the floor of Parliament is, likewise, risible at best and fun to dunk on. But while these guys are absurd, they’re not the originators of the masculinity moral panic, just the latest people to jump on the bandwagon and push the panic further into public consciousness.
And that’s the problem.
As Michael Hobbes notes, moral panics are disinformation vectors. They rely on people hearing the same thing over and over again — men are in danger, masculinity is in the decline, these horrible forces are working against you — without critically examining the facts. Hawley, Fletcher, Carlson and the rest dip, dodge and evade in order to avoid ever having to back up their bullshit, because their goal is advancing a political agenda, not actually helping men. They don’t want people asking about why there are so many absentee fathers in minority communities; they want people to just associate “fatherless kids” with “black”, rather than seeing that the same folks condemning single mothers are the same folks who insist on jailing fathers for crimes that would result in probation for white people. Similarly, they don’t want people actually examining why the modern economy has decimated rural communities and turned them to hotbeds of opioid addiction because they might start noticing that the people blaming unemployment on feminism are the same people who benefit from closing the factories and sending manufacturing overseas. They want the idea of “manhood in crisis” to be embedded as deeply as the idea that there were too many frivolous lawsuits in the 90s or that strangers in white vans are looking to abduct your children.
Hawley doesn’t give a damn about single parents or unemployed men. Tucker Carlson doesn’t give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about “the decline of men” and Ben Shapiro couldn’t give less of a shit about pronouns or which bathroom trans people use. They care about money and political power. They’re just cynical enough to think that most people are willing to accept their bullshit at face value and not look too closely. They are trading on anxieties and insecurities of others, pointing at a nebulous enemy and saying “it’s all their fault” and reaching for the suckers’ wallets while they’re distracted.
But there comes a point where the absurd posturing is no longer just posturing; like a dog chasing a car, there’s the question of “well you caught it, now what?” Hawley has stated that he wants to make “reclaiming masculinity” a focal point of the Republican party going into the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election. This is why the question of “so what do you propose we do about it” is both important and sinister. If Republicans campaign on “Make Manhood Great Again” and enough get elected to office to actually do something about it… well, now they’re at the point that their rhetoric is no longer absurd or laughable. While many of them are likely cynical enough to think that they can just bang the drum and make noise, there will be plenty who feel obligated to actually follow through on those campaign promises.
The Abortion Vigilante law in Texas is a prime example of rhetoric being turned into action. The GOP campaigns on anti-abortion in order to rile people up and keep the money flowing; most don’t actually care about Roe V. Wade except as a wedge issue and fundraising. But the folks who didn’t get the memo took the step of putting it into practice, creating a Constitutional crisis in the process.
And yes, that’s the sort of thing that sounds absurdly alarmist. But considering that we have politicians in Congress who sincerely believe that a Satanic cabal of pedophiles is running the world and a few hundred folks hanging out in Dealey Plaza waiting for the resurrection of JFK, absurd looks all too plausible these days.
More practically however, moral panics do have consequences, long after the panic becomes a distant memory. As Hobbes points out, the moral panic surrounding the McDonalds coffee lawsuit lead to the erosion of consumer rights and giving corporations greater reign to cause harm with little fear of consequences. Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers, spurred on by the same forces pushing the masculinity “crisis” have attacked store clerks, threatened doctors and nurse and terrorized school boards. The promotion of absurd positions surrounding masculinity — especially when equating masculinity with Christian white nationalism — doesn’t seem threatening, until people start taking it seriously and put it into practice.
And to make matters worse: it obscures the real issues men face and makes it that much harder to provide meaningful and significant change to improve their circumstances.
This is why it’s important, not just to pay attention to people who push a “men are in crisis” narrative, but to what they’re actually saying. Are they actually addressing the real issues that men face, in a serious and compassionate manner? Or are they just trying to rile up the crowds in hopes of shaking more money out of their pockets? This is why it’s important to push back against the moral crisis framework and the people who give it oxygen by repeating it uncritically or privileging the lie. It’s also why it’s important to address the real issues men face and to recognize how systematic and intersectional it is with race, class and economic issues.
The folks who use it as a cynical ploy are playing with fire and don’t give a second’s thought to the potential fallout.
After all, they’re not the ones who’ll have to face it.